For some of us, we can recall the moments from our youth when our environmental seeds were planted. For many, it was through our parents and their guidance in nature: a routine hike, a family camping trip, a walk along the river’s edge to skip rocks or dig in the mud, building forts under our favorite tree, eating a fresh snap pea in the garden, or through attending a ranger led program at a nature preserve. These experiences did more than simply expel some much-needed youthful energy, each encounter planted an environmental seed – a seed that, with nurturing, provided us a deeper understanding and appreciation for the natural world. And for some, those seeds grow into adulthood, producing humans who make it their life’s work to serve, protect, and share the natural world with others.

Here’s how the Conservancy Team’s Environmental Seeds were planted:

“My seed began to grow at the age of 4 when I can remember moving into the new family home in Northern Virginia and exploring the creek behind the house as far as it would take me. Finding aquatic critters and interesting rocks and plants was blowing my little mind! Growing up I would spend the weekends in the woods or on the boat with my grandfather, dad, and brother; I can remember this cool feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of activity that goes on in the natural world underwater that I had never considered or seen before. Attending school at WVU, I was at the heart of some of the most breathtaking views the east coast could offer, and I spent many days and weekends hiking Cooper’s Rock, Seneca Falls, Dolly Sod, and Blackwater Falls with friends. Now at 28 years old, when I step out into the woods, I still get that exciting/overwhelming feeling that I had when I was 4, and that sense of being just a small organism in the giant web of natural life. “

“My environmental roots were established very early in life, and by the time I could walk I was climbing trees. I grew up in rural Virginia, running barefoot in streams and woods catching frogs and lizards until the sun went down. As I grew into adulthood, I sought work that would keep me outside in the sunshine and fresh air. For several years I worked on farms and ranches where I developed an appreciation for sustainably managing livestock on the land. I developed a keen interest in balancing the needs of native grassland establishment with cattle grazing and the sustainable practices that make it possible. This passion led me to acquire a degree in Environmental Resource Management and a career in the outdoors. Now I enjoy the culmination of my passions at Willowsford Conservancy and can continue to heal the land, track wildlife, and climb the occasional tree.”

“Growing up both my parents emphasized spending time in nature and being active. We frequently visited nature centers, county, state, and national parks, and did outdoor activities like gardening, camping, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking. As a child, my father and I would foster injured animals we found in the woods behind our home, as well as take in stray cats or dogs if we could. As I got older, my passion and appreciation for the natural world only grew. I started volunteering with the Michigan DNR as well as county parks to control invasive species and educate the public on sustainable invasive species management practices. During this time, I was also continuing my education, I graduated college with a Bachelors of Science in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Today, I enjoy spending my professional and personal time continuing to learn and admire nature and wildlife, and it’s because of my experiences as a young person, I’ve landed at Willowsford.”

“I was lucky enough to grow up in the great outdoors, exploring the woods, hiking trails, and discovering nature. I have backpacked, climbed, kayaked, and sailed the landscape. I have passed this love onto my wife, children, and many others as a Boy Scout, Scout Master, Volunteer and Advocate for the environment.”

“My environmental seed was planted when I was in middle school. I volunteered as a docent at the Captain Avery Museum, a local historic house in Deale, Maryland. In addition to tours and events, the museum offered educational programming about the history of oyster harvesting on the Chesapeake Bay. Through these programs I gained a deep appreciation of how all parts of our local ecosystems impact one another, especially how oysters play a major role in natural water sanitation. As an adult, my passion for the environment has only grown and I love that I’ve been able to travel down this professional path. I’m thrilled to help plant the environmental seed in the youth community in Willowsford and am excited to see how they will shape the future.”

“One of the earliest memories I have of myself enjoying the outdoors is walking down to the creek with my dog. I loved that half mile walk, the smells of summer, the calls of meadowlarks. I would stop and pluck horsetail from the side of the road to play with. Horsetail looks like a miniature version of bamboo. At each growth node on the plant, you can pop it apart. I loved doing this as a child and would endlessly pop them apart and pop them back together until I wore the stems out and they no longer would join back up. Once I got to the creek, I would watch the fish nervously darting around. I was always fascinated by the patterns of silt build-up on the stream bed. The patterns that develop are so beautiful, to this day I enjoy looking at such things. As a child, I always had to touch them. This would, of course, stir up the sediment and muddy the water ruining the effect, but I couldn’t resist the temptation. Now that I have a few more years on me, I leave well enough alone and just enjoy the view.”

“My environmental seed was planted early in life growing up exploring the waterways of central Florida. My dad is an avid bass fisherman and some of my earliest memories are days spent with him exploring the banks of the St. Johns River, catching minnows, and looking for alligators. Our favorite show to watch together was Steve Irwin’s “The Crocodile Hunter”, which jump started my lifelong passion for wildlife. This love for all things nature led to pursuing my degree in Sustainability Studies at the University of Florida. Now five years later, I am able to work with the Conservancy to create programs that will help kids get some of those same transformative experiences with nature that proved so important for me.”

“My environmental seed was planted deep, long ago when I was just a young lad. It all started when my dad took me fishing at Beaverdam Reservoir and I caught my first fish. The weather was nice and sunny, and I just wanted more of it. Whether it was fishing, walking around in the woods, or just swinging on a swing, I wanted to be outside. I worked in restaurants and other establishments but never lasted more than two weeks due to it being a ‘dumb job’ and wanted to quit as I stared at the sunshine and wildlife calling my name through the windows. I knew I had to leave and pursue my calling into the wild. Little did I know, my application to Willowsford Conservancy would change my life forever. From the first fishing trip with my dad to this day, my roots have spread – absorbing all the rich and valuable nutrients Willowsford has to offer, while still holding me up right supporting my eternal growth. May the forest be with you!”

“My environmental seed was planted very early on by how my family interacted with the outdoors. We harvested firewood for heating from our timber, went mushroom hunting, collected berries, and enjoyed the exercise. My parents are avid gardeners and I reluctantly helped plant, hoe, harvest, and preserve much of the food that we ate through the summer and into the storage season. I also worked on many area farms helping my father, who is a large animal veterinarian, and worked for farmers baling hay, milking cows, painting livestock fences, and picking up field rocks. Into adulthood, I served as a Peace Corp member in Tanzania where my environmental seed was further nurtured through learning about their culture and me sharing knowledge of farming. It is because of these collective experiences I landed at Willowsford Farm – where I am at my happiest when sharing the outdoors with others.”

“My parents are British and I spent the first ten years of my life living in the center of London which meant the concrete jungle and vibrant culture served as my formative environment. So, it was during summers visiting family and friends with either my Mum or my Dad that I saw nature beyond Holland Park and Kensington Gardens. I spent several long summer visits with my Mum to her boss’s country house in the Highlands of Scotland and it was there that my connection with nature was formed with a group of other city kids. We never were allowed to go places by ourselves as 7 and 8 year olds in London, but in Tomich we ventured out by ourselves to hike to an amazing waterfall, explore the ruins of a castle, pick berries and try to make our own jam, swim and catch minnows in a frigid cold river, and build forts in cavernous Rhododendron bushes that were double our height. Two key memories have always stuck with me – digging for potatoes in their garden and that satisfying feeling when I hit the first one and spending hours watching a cow in labor and then delivering her young calf. Those were things I never got to do or see living in a flat in the middle of the big city, but they gave me an appreciation and awe for the natural world at a young age.”

“For me, my environmental seed was planted as a young person aged 3-5 – we lived close to Tamarak Nature Center in the Twin Cities where my parents would frequently take me to explore the open area. I recall seeing turtles, snakes, beaver dams and experiencing nature-based crafts in their nature curiosity room, walking on the boardwalk across the wetlands and taking apart cattails. As I aged this seed continued to grow – I joined ECO club in high school, focused my high school biology class project on water quality testing of two major rivers that ran through our community and became an organic farmer – and today I have the privilege of supporting the Conservancy mission through writing articles like this one.”

A place where community and more than 2,000 acres of open space coexist : a place where there is an abundance of opportunities to plant environmental seeds in every young human and adult alike. So, get out there – Explore Your Agrihood – celebrate Earth Day every day and plant those environmental seeds and grow a more resilient tomorrow: one walk in the woods, one Farm sourced meal, one volunteer opportunity, one ranger program, and one camping trip at a time.